The other day as I was swimming laps in the pool at the gym, I looked up at the balcony overlooking the swimming pool and saw a handful of men and women, all huffing and puffing along on treadmills and ellipticals. All of them, perspiring heavily with limbs moving furiously back and forth, reminded me of a bunch of hamsters. What was most interesting was noting the different sizes of people, both skinny and heavy alike, chugging along, wanting to incinerate as many calories as they could.
I was reminded of the months shortly after Luke was born when I was at the smallest weight that I had been since I had been in 9th grade. Even at 113 pounds, I would critically stand in front of the mirror thinking how much better I'd look if I could trim a little off here and a little off there. Meticulously tracking carbs, protein, and fiber, and exercising 5-6 times per week, I was like a machine. Now here I am, 2 kids later and 20 pounds heavier, thinking how much I'd like to kick my skinny self from 4 years ago in the tush and tell her to get over herself. I thought dryly to myself, "I hope my girls don't grow up fretting about numbers as I have a tendency to do. Fat girls and skinny girls watch the scale just the same. No matter what that number reads, they'll never be satisfied unless things are right upstairs in their heads."
At that thought I instantly had a barrage of thoughts I realized I would want my daughters to know. Advice is the cheapest things out there and just about anyone, from Oprah to Jenny McCarthy, is willing to give it and proclaim themselves an authority on anything from the beef industry to autism.
So after they've sifted through countless "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books and inspirational, feel-good websites, what is it that I really want them to know about where I stand? What do I believe and want them to know?
The rest of my time swimming I spent coming up with things I would want them to know- what I truly believe. Not just the refrigerator magnet sayings, but the things I truly try to internalize for myself. Sadly, I still struggle with most of the things I believe the most strongly in. I don't for one second claim myself to be perfect, or anywhere close to it, in any of these areas.
I came home and wrote them down and realized they would be more easily read in categories. With that lengthy prelude, here they are.
- Less is more.
- No amount of expensive makeup or fancy clothes will ever compensate for bad hygiene.
- Don’t slouch. No really...don't slouch.
- Don't EVER EVER EVER leave the house in pajamas and slippers- unless the house is on fire. I doubt there's any other country in the world where you'll see people at the store and in school sporting their nightly attire.
- Never stop wanting to look attractive to your husband.
- Floss, floss, floss.
- Don't buy into all that anti-aging marketing crap. Some of the most beautiful women you'll ever see are laced in smile lines and wrinkles.
- You'll likely spend more years of your life coloring your hair than not. Enjoy your natural hair color before you go gray.
- Always buy the best quality you can afford.
- Self-confidence is a woman's most powerful beauty secret. But be cautious: cockiness is just a half step away.
- The difference between self-acceptance and apathy is a very fine line.
- Short legs, small chest, whatever it is...there's darn good reason God made you that way so learn to love it.
- A classy woman, both in appearance and mannerisms, is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
- As you date boys, be gentle. Treat them the way you'd want girls to treat your brothers.
- If you want to be treated like a lady, then treat him like a gentleman.
- You have the rest of your life to be married. For heaven's sake, don't act like you're married to your 8th grade boyfriend.
- That being said, dating makes for good practice runs for marriage. Mistakes made in those relationships, if you learn from them, will (or at least should) make you a better wife.
- Marry a man who talks and really listens to you. I've observed countless friends struggle in marriages where the mister doesn't communicate.
- Treat your husband the way you would hope your children's spouse would treat them. They will likely observe and mirror the relationship with their future spouses that they observed in their parents'.
- If you need to duke it out with your husband, so be it. But do so in private. Don't EVER, EVER let your kids fall asleep at night wondering if their parents will still be together in the morning. That can be one of the most terrifying and scarring things for a child.
- The butterflies and fireworks will likely fade. If they do, don't fret. It's likely a sign of a deeper, more meaningful love. Fireworks and butterflies by nature have a very short lifespan.
- No one trusts a gossip
- Unless you know what you're talking about, keep your mouth shut. Most people can spot a windbag a mile away.
- Pouting is the worst way to get attention.
- Be selective and cautious in your choice of friends no matter what your age. Some of the most challenging friend choices I've encountered have been in my adulthood.
- Never suppress a generous thought.
- Many woman proudly proclaim they get along better with men than women. Hmmm...that leaves them in a bit of a pickle after they're married. Learn to get along with other women or your friends will be in short supply (or possibly dangerously inappropriate) after you get married.
- Open your eyes to finding friendships in unexpected places and in unexpected people.
- The concept of leveling is a powerful one. In essence, it's human nature for people to attempt to "level" the world to their line of sight. If someone views themselves poorly, they unconsciously attempt to drag everyone around them to where they view themselves. Adversely, if someone sees themselves positively, they'll optimistically see the best in others as they do in themselves. Once you become aware of this, you'll see it constantly happening around you.
- Before you do or say something, turn the tables and see how you'd like it if it were said or done to you.
- Just let it go.
- Women have a tendency to tell, re-tell, re-tell, and then re-tell again their birth stories in an almost competitive nature. Get comfortable, sit back, and learn to smile and nod.
- Don't hand the control of your social life over to others on a silver platter and then sit home and agonize if you're not invited to come along. If you want to participate in social events, more often than not, you'll have to be the one planning and organizing it.
- Make self-honesty one of your best friends.
- Err on the side of generosity.
- If you feel distant from God, it’s you, not Him.
- Share your testimony often with your children starting from a young age, even when they don't understand what you're saying, to avoid the awkwardness that will inevitably come if you start when their teenagers.
- Write down impressions as soon as you get them.
- Learning to recognize the Spirit is the most important skill you can learn as a mother and wife (advice courtesy of Sister Beck).
HOME, FAMILY, WIFEHOOD
- Few things drive out the Spirit faster than disorganization, clutter, and filth.
- After you have kids, find a hobby and hold on to it for dear life. Your sanity may depend on it.
- There is no shame in pills, seeing a therapist, or admitting to poor mental health. The only shame is being unwilling to help yourself and hurting those around you in the process.
- Parents are learning too.
- The emasculating of men is rampant epidemic. Cherish the men in your life.
- Per Sister Beck, "You are the lioness at the fortress." Fiercely guard everything that comes into your home.
- Read to your children in silly voices.
- You’ll have children in your home for very few years in relation to the rest of your life. Hang in there. The days are long but the years are short.
- The phrase, “Thank you for the food. May I be excused?” inherently carries a host of values.
- An absent mother in the home is worse than a working mother outside the home.
- If you’re a stay-at-home mom there should be a certain amount of STAYING AT HOME that should be done. Don't drag your kids around to countless lunch dates, shopping trips, and crafting sessions.
- Organization is a frame of mind. It's not found in the number of bins and gadgets you buy.
- Teach cleanliness and organization young to your children and set the bar high.
- Just as your husband has a job, being a wife and mother is your full-time, unpaid employment. Treat your role as a job of sorts. That being said, just as your husband works a specific shift at work, pick your shift when you'll give your all, whether it be in the morning getting the kids off to school or helping them in the evening after they get home with homework and dinner. No one can be expected to give 110% 24 hours per day without a quick burnout (also courtesy of Sister Beck).
- Have a trade or education of some kind. Base that around your likes and strengths, not just it's money-making power. This may be a controversial thing to say, but your husband and children will respect you more if you have your own specialty and self-sustaining capability.
- The first rule of household finances: Pay your tithing.
- The second rule of household finances: Run your home finances as if you were running a business in meticulously budgeting and a tracking expenses. This is your business and the most important one at that where what is at stake is the highest.
- When you’re feeling impulsive on a purchase or big life decision, think about it for at least a week and then decide.
- Activities and things you take upon yourself works in a conveyor-like fashion. For everything new that comes on, something will drop off whether you like it or not. Decide whether that new endeavor is worthy of something dropping off your conveyor belt and what that thing will be that drops off. If you don't choose what drops off, something you may not wish to be will be sacrificed.
- When deciding on a job opportunity, take three things into account: location, pay, and job satisfaction. If the job fits two of those criteria, then it's a good job. If not, keep on looking (advice courtesy of Bill Hawkes).
Now that's a lot of wind and I must be a bag.